Impact events

Assessments of the Energy, Mass and Size of the Chicxulub Impactor

By Keith Cowing
March 26, 2014
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Assessments of the Energy, Mass and Size of the Chicxulub Impactor

In 1980, Alvarez and colleagues proposed that, in the transition from the Cretaceous to Paleogene, a large impactor collided with Earth being the cause of the mass extinction occurred at the limit K/Pg.

In 1980 there was no known impact structure, which could be responsible for this extinction. It was not until 1991 that an international group of researchers proposed that a circular structure between 180 and 200 km, buried under Tertiary deposits in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, was the crater formed by the impact proposed by the group of Alvarez (Hildebrand et al., 1991). It is very probable that an impact of this magnitude have had large effects on the surface and in the environment. To study these effects, it is necessary to estimate the characteristics that the impactor had.

The literature often mentions the nature of the impactor, and has been proposed both an asteroid and a comet, and even a comet shower that produced periodic extinctions. However, the physical parameters of the impactor are not limited, so the aim of this study is to estimate the most relevant features of this one such as the size, mass and kinetic energy. We found that the kinetic energy of the impactor is in the range from 1.3e24 J to 5.8e25 J. The mass is in the range of 1.0e15 kg to 4.6e17 kg.

Finally, the diameter of the object is in the range of 10.6 km to 80.9 km. Based on the mass of the impactor and iridium abundance in different types of meteorites, we calculate the concentration of iridium, which should be observed in the K/Pg layer. When compared with the measurements, we concluded that the best estimation is that the impactor was a comet.

Hector Javier Durand-Manterola, Guadalupe Cordero-Tercero (Submitted on 19 Mar 2014)

Comments: 11 pages, 3 figures, 2 Tables

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1403.6391 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1403.6391v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Hector Javier Durand-Manterola [v1] Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:08:09 GMT (6379kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻